Negotiation is a crucial skill
Life is filled with negotiation.
The majority of the interactions that we have at work and at home are negotiations.
Your career, your finances, your reputation, your love life, even the fate of your kids…
All these hinge on your ability to negotiate.
Lawyers above all other professionals should be skilled in negotiating.
But mostly they are not.
Of course, it’s perhaps not their fault.
Negotiation wasn’t taught in law school
Out in the real world, few lawyers have formally studied negotiation.
Decades ago, the excuse would be “well, there aren’t any formal courses that teach it.”
But now, you can sign up for a 2-day Karrass seminar, which take place all over planet Earth.
The cost is around $1,000 for the two days.
I’m not sure that’s the best option, but it’s one that’s been widely publicized for many years (especially in the back of airplane magazines).
A Cheaper Option
Many people regard Getting to Yes as a groundbreaking treatise on negotiation.
The author’s approach was to systematize problem solving so that negotiating parties could reach a mutually beneficial deal (i.e. get to “Yes” as in the book’s title).
The system was easy to follow and appealing, with four basic tenets:
- Separate the person (i.e. the emotion) from the problem.
- Don’t get wrapped up in the other side’s position (what they’re asking for). Instead focus on their interests (i.e. why they’re asking for it) so you can find out what they really want.
- Work cooperatively to generate win-win options.
- Establish mutually agreed-upon ways to evaluate the possible solutions.
After this book came out lots of people, even FBI hostage negotiators focused on using the problem-solving approach to bargaining situations.
The allure was powerful.
The Fisher/Ury approach seemed so sensible.
So rooted in logic.
There was only one problem…
It was flawed.
Because Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky completely debunked the notion that humans act rationally, even when they have massive self-interest.
Kahneman won a Nobel prize for his debunking (Tversky had passed away before the prize was awarded).
Kahneman proved that everyone is subject to something called Cognitive Bias.
That is, our unconscious (and largely irrational) brain literally distorts the way we see the world.
Kahneman and Tversky discovered more than 150 irrational cognitive biases.
Kahneman detailed his findings in a best selling book called Thinking, Fast and Slow.
Allow me to summarize the book.
Basically, we have two “thinking” systems:
System 1 is fast, instinctive and emotional.
System 2 is slow, deliberate, and logical.
Guess which one is more influential in decision making?
System 1 wins 99% of the time
Which means that most people make decisions quickly, instinctively and emotionally.
And while most people (including expert negotiators) had trouble processing this important truth…
It made perfect sense to an FBI hostage negotiator named Chris Voss.
After all “logical split-the-difference bargaining” doesn’t work so well in hostage negotiations.
(e.g. You give me two hostages and you take two then we’re square).
No, a hostage negotiator plays a different role than business negotiators: he has to win.
The hostage negotiator has to get EVERYTHING he asks for, without giving back anything significant, but in a way that leaves the abductor feeling as if they have a great relationship.
So here’s a question:
Wouldn’t you be better off using the approach Chris Voss takes in his hostage negotiations?
Indeed, you would…
A Better Option
After realizing that the “logical” negotiation approach wasn’t optimal, Chris Voss wrote a book called Never Split the Difference.
It’s pretty amazing.
Voss’s teaches simple (but powerful) psychological tactics that work to calm people down, establish rapport, gain trust, elicit verbalization of needs, and persuade the other person of our empathy.
Everyone could benefit from reading this book.
Voss would like that of course, but he’s realistic.
Voss understands that most people are reluctant to learn negotiation.
Even though negotiation is a part of life.
But you’re not most people, are you?
You realize that if you want something in life you need to negotiate for it.
And you know it’s best to do it well.
Especially since you’re a lawyer.
Reading Voss’s book is a good place to start learning how to improve your negotiation skills.
Actually, it’s a GREAT place to start, because the book is incredibly interesting and well-written.
So, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Voss’s book today.
Also, if you wouldn’t mind doing me a favor, please take this 1-question survey about your background in studying negotiation.
And, when you’re ready…
Here are three ways I can help you with your practice:
- Check out my private Facebook Group, for lawyers ONLY. Lawyers can join for free and about 400+ solo and small firm lawyers just like you ask each other questions, bounce practice management ideas, and get encouragement)
- Listen to my LawFirm Autopilot podcast, available on iTunes. It’s specifically geared solo & small firm attorneys who want to leverage technology using a proven strategic blueprint.
- Sign up for my weekly emails (and get my free 10-page Technology Resource Guide).